What exactly is the American Dream™?
After this episode, we’re no closer to figuring it out than Jughead is. Here’s what the American Dream isn’t: finding out that your mom is the new drug kingpin in town, or fighting a dozen different nerds convinced a board game has marked you for death, or moving out of your house because your mom has joined a cult, or, you know, breaking up with your servant/security detail/boy toy because he wants more than you’re willing to give him. Just to list a few random examples.
Kelli: This episode begins with the “American Dream” concept detailed in Jughead’s opening monologue, and it carries through the Jones family’s storyline pretty cleanly, so it seems like a good place to start.
We learn right away that Gladys is the anonymous buyer of the Coopers’ house, which she surprises FP with for his 50th birthday. Finally, the Joneses are going to live on Elm Street in comfort and luxury! FP is no longer the head of a gang, but the sheriff of the town, and FP and Gladys are in love, and everything is peachy as fuck! Never mind the fact that Jughead and FP both have romantic relationships linked to this house, or all of those crimes that happened inside of it, or even the newly-charred wall thanks to Betty’s “candle mishap,” because apparently last week’s cliffhanger was a fluke. Everything’s fine.
Does it bother you guys the way this show presents a story beat like it’s going to be a big deal and then writes it off as completely unimportant the following episode?
Gabriella: I kind of liked that to be honest, but I think more because I’m also currently re-watching Psych and I’m digging the humor of a fake-out. But as for Riverdale, it did feel a bit odd - the show is so dramatic that the fire felt normal, but the fact that it only caused a little damage seemed unrealistic. The thing that bothered me more was the fact that the whole thing was so weird. I’m pretty sure you can’t make an anonymous all cash buy ONLINE, Gladys.
Mary: YES. But I agree with Gabriella that it can also be a bit fun. Yes, Betty almost burned the house down in a giant fire, but it’s fun to pull back a little bit and see it wasn’t as giant of a fire as we thought, and just some curtains got burned. It’s mostly interesting to me that we’re seeing Jughead and Betty’s fortunes reversed—at a time when I think they seem particularly distant. Jughead is getting to move into Betty’s old house, a quiet and very American Dream (™) worthy home, and Betty is going to start couch surfing like Jughead did when we first met him.
Kelli: I’m going to go out a surprising limb here and say that this might be my favorite episode of the season so far, mainly because I feel like the dynamics of Jughead’s family are actually really interesting, and there was a lot of screen time devoted to this storyline.
Obviously, the stuff with Gladys has been bubbling under the surface ever since Jughead visited her in Toledo, but I’m glad they gave her a couple of episodes to settle into town before bringing things to a head between her and Jug. I think there were other ways they could have gone with this that wouldn’t have worked as well — like, Jughead could have refused to believe that his mom was involved with the drug trade and sided with her over Betty — but his immediate suspicion of Gladys makes sense given their history, and I like that the conflict here isn’t whether or not he believes that his mom is responsible for these things, but rather how Jughead can reconcile her crimes with his father’s newfound happiness.
So, what did you guys think? Am I crazy? Or was this actually kind of good?
Gabriella: I’m so with you - this episode felt the most like original Riverdale - family drama, teen life, small town. The narrow focus on the families allowed the characters not to feel like footnotes in an insane overarching plot. I was also glad that Jughead didn’t jump to defend his mom, it felt more realistic and also didn’t add unnecessary tension to Bughead, which Riverdale could have easily done. They decided to stick with the characters’ actual personality and let them do things based on that, instead of forcing them to do something out of character in the name of serving a larger plot.
Mary: I think it’s hard to remember what original Riverdale was like for me—we feel so removed from it!—but you guys are right that this hits some of the major buttons with the family drama. There’s sort of a slow burn happening here that I appreciate. Like you said, Kelli, we get introduced to Gladys long before she becomes a threat, which allows us to kind of actually *gasp* like her!
This plot is also interesting because it’s a kid of divorced parents dream. Jughead has had a split family for years—and frankly has gotten a raw end of the deal since FP let him be homeless for a long amount of time. Now, Jughead’s parents are back together, more or less, his sister is with him, and he’s moving into a house. Things should be good, but they aren’t really. All of these emotions, swirling together, is making Jughead’s plot the most interesting right now. I’m excited to see where it takes us.
Kelli: We also get a little bit more of this “junior deputy serpent” business. FP brings in Tom Keller to explain to the Serpents that they will each be paired with an officer mentor, which makes slightly more sense than the Serpents simply wandering off to “enforce law,” but also… where are these so-called other officers? As far as I know, Riverdale is only allowed to have one police officer at a time.
Jughead is paired with FP as a mentor, which also seems like a conflict of interest to me. That would be like hiring your own child as an intern, wouldn’t it? I mean, for story reasons we need more forced time between Jughead and FP so that they can bond, and I will admit that their conversation in the squad car made Jughead’s speech at the end more impactful (or maybe that was just the gut-punch of seeing sweet Fred again). Still… why?
Gabriella: I’m also pretty sure it’s illegal to do any of that without parent or guardian permission. Like, yes please drive my teenager around in a city that has recently been UNDER QUARANTINE FOR A MASSIVE DRUGS SCANDAL and had a MAD SERIAL KILLER on the loose. I have to admit, when FP said he never thought he’d make it to 50 I kept thinking he’d definitely die by the end of the episode, so I’m glad that didn’t happen. Also, 50 is a weird number to pick - surely it should’ve been like, 25 or 27 or… anything else? I mean 50 isn’t OLD but it’s also not tragically young? Or am I just cold-hearted.
Mary: Nah, you’re not cold-hearted—I thought the same thing. Maybe he just meant that he is fifty, so he never thought he’d be as old as he is? Maybe FP’s dad tragically died at fifty. *shrug*
The entire Serpents working with the police department seems ridiculous, and you’re right Kelli. There is only one police officer in Riverdale at any given time and it’s the sheriff. We all know this.
Kelli: Our other central plot for this episode involves Archie. This was one of the first times this season that his storyline didn’t make me want to die of some combination of boredom and annoyance — probably because it heavily featured Betty and Jughead. It also helped that this time, the bad situation he’s in isn’t actually his fault.
To sum it up: digging through FP’s ~sheriff files~, Jughead discovers the “Kill the Red Paladin” quest card amongst Warden Norton’s things. He, Betty, and Archie agree that all of these cards must have come from the same source, and Archie has a hunch it’s Hiram. He pays Papa Lodge a visit and asks him straight-up if he was responsible for the cards, and Hiram admits that he was, and that he gave out 12 of them — but now that he and Archie are chill, he’s willing to give Archie a ton of information about the distribution sites where he might be able to find the other players with Red Paladin cards. After visiting the comic book store and speaking with yet another G&G-possessed nerd, it becomes clear to the trio that Archie is basically fucked, because as long as those cards are out there, someone is always going to be waiting until the moment they can complete the quest… and KILL ARCHIE.
What did you guys think of the solution Jughead came up with here? I mean, it was another excuse to watch Archie bleed while shirtless, but I’m sort of glad it happened because I can only assume/pray that this means that the ‘Archie must die’ plot is finally over.
Gabriella: It’s definitely not over. But I wish it were. This show is so much better when it sticks to its more normal teen drama, not the weird G&G supernatural thing. The fight bored me, also because it was cut with scenes of Cheryl and Toni which made the whole thing feel weird to me. Those two scenes did not need parallels drawn between them? The only thing connecting them was time, I presume, so why bother?
Mary: I liked this solution, but I also have a lot of questions about it. The premise, getting the guys to come fight Archie, I agree with. BUT in what world does someone—even Hiram—say, “Sure, I know you’re a teen, but here’s an abandoned warehouse I have access too and yes, it just happens to have a boxing ring for your purposes. Go have fun, kid.” NO ONE. NO ONE WOULD SAY THAT. There are too many things that just fall into place for Archie.
I think they were trying to go for a sexy fighting vibe by intercutting Cheryl and Toni getting down in the vault of La Bonne Nuit, but it didn’t work for me at all. Fighting isn’t really sexy to me.
Kelli: With the theme of things being “over,” how believable is it that Hiram is actually going to stop fucking with Archie? Also, does him giving Archie keys to this abandoned boxing gym mean Archie is going to become Riverdale High’s second small business owner?
Gabriella: I don’t know - I feel like Hiram doesn’t need anything from Archie anymore, nor to kill him, so I hope it’s over and have a little more faith that it will be. Hiram’s got his hands full with Gladys and the drugs thing, so I’m not sure what going after Archie again would achieve.
Mary: Logically, I agree with you guys. Hiram doesn’t need Archie and should leave him alone, but I doubt that’s going to happen. OR maybe Hiram will start going after Jughead now that Gladys is in on the drug game. There are so many kids Hiram could go after now that he’s over Archie. The world is his oyster.
Kelli: Let’s talk about Veronica. Her story is a little sidelined this episode and I’m not mad about it. Instead of another mob plot, we get the dissolution of her relationship with Reggie. This was basically a non-thing to begin with, so I don’t really care about their break-up on an “emotional level.” What I did appreciate about it was that Reggie finally stood up for himself. Their whole relationship has basically been Veronica expecting him to do shit for her and giving him little to nothing in return. I like that instead of directly asking her to be his girlfriend, which was sort of his driving factor for doing any of this in the first place, he asks to be her business partner. He’s like, she’s not in love with me and she never will be, so I might as well get some money out of this shit.
Gabriella: I mean, I was glad Reggie stood up to her except at the end when he said “I feel like you owe me” -- I know he wasn’t talking about sex, but it just struck me as a clumsily worded moment from the writers (I know, shock) trying to express something quite genuine from Reggie, so that undercut the strength of it for me. But I’m glad Veronica had someone stand up to her. Even if it didn’t end the way Reggie wanted.
Mary: This entire plot seemed like seemed like Reggie was mourning a relationship that only existed to him. Veronica doesn’t seem too interested in dating Reggie for Reggie. He’s just fun and he was there. That being said, I do think Reggie was trying to express something heartfelt, but I agree with Gabriella it was written poorly. I quite like the dynamic between Veronica and Reggie; he seems loyal to her but also not willing to take her crap--and he has his own ideas about things sometimes. I’m sad to see them dissolve like this.
Kelli: My next question re: Veronica is… do you guys think this is setting things up for an actual Toni/Veronica romance?? We see her and Toni dancing together at the speakeasy and Cheryl growing visibly jealous at the sight of them together. If this were to happen, I would honestly be thrilled. Then again, Josie was nowhere to be seen during this episode, so maybe they’re just gearing up for a Varchie reunion?
Gabriella: I thought they were going to hook up in the last episode, so I’m here for it. I dislike Cheryl so much (and pretty much always have) and actually like Toni as a character. I think Veronica would be a better girlfriend than Cheryl. And yes, I wondered where Josie was this whole time, too? Especially given Archie was like fighting a bunch of people to the death???? Surely that’s something you turn up for as a girlfriend, right?
Mary: Oh noooo, I love Cheryl! I know she’s a total insane person, but I still like her a lot. She’s chaotic. I was wondering if they’d get together—they looked like they might when they were dancing—but I don’t know if the show would go that far in terms of LGBTQ representation.
Then again, as I have said many times, the show-runner once got a cease and desist for a play he wrote that essentially did just that.
Kelli: Speaking of Toni and Cheryl, theirs was the second breakup we saw during this episode, and it was… interesting.
It became pretty clear last episode that things were going downhill between these two. What it seems to boil down to is that Toni is now more involved with the Poisons than she is with Cheryl, and Cheryl is too possessive of Toni. I think it’s a lot easier to side with Toni here because on a moral level she’s just… a better person? But I felt for Cheryl too, because we already know that she has problems with attachment and issues with abandonment, and as is so common, her fear of losing Toni ultimately drives her to push Toni away. She acts out in an obvious way to get Toni’s attention, and even though it works, it also provokes the conversation that ends things between them.
Of course, what I mostly want to ask you guys about is that sex scene. It was pretty wild, even for Riverdale, and I think it’s particularly important to note that it happens between two women. In the past, even the most blatantly sexual teen shows would give same-sex relationships less than half the action of the heteronormative pairings, and I’m really into how much this show is leaning into the sexual nature of Toni and Cheryl’s relationship. I mean, we’ve certainly seen Veronica and Archie fuck enough times to warrant a scene like this.
Gabriella: I find all sex scenes boring. I realize this makes ME seem like a prude but I never quite understand why we’re supposed to enjoy it? Like, if you want to watch porn, watch porn.
Anyway, that being said, I am glad that the scales were balanced and the show wasn’t afraid to put the same spotlight on Cheryl and Toni’s sex life as they were with Varchie. But I would rather sacrifice all of the sex scenes for a better written and tighter plot overall.
I don’t think Cheryl’s possessiveness comes from abandonment issues, I think she’s genuinely narcissistic and is suffering from a wound to her ego and that’s about it.
Mary: I didn’t like, as I mentioned above, how it was intercut with Archie fighting—that part didn’t make much sense to me at all. That being said, I was glad they included it. If I have to deal with all these other teens having sex, you can at least show the one lesbian relationship and give them equal screen time. The only thing I worry about is that people will view it as sort of fetish-y.
Kelli: I think it could be seen as fetish-y if it weren’t for the fact that all of the sexual relationships on this show are being given this kind of attention. It would have bothered me if this was the only relationship being shot this way, but we’ve seen Varchie and Bughead like this too.
Anyway, Toni and Cheryl’s break-up (assuming it’s a break-up and not just a step backwards?) provokes Cheryl to do what she always does in times of emotional turmoil: demand one of the leading roles in the next school musical. I hope this episode is less disappointing than the Carrie episode, but I have more doubt than hope at this point.
If someone ends up dying at the end of next week’s episode, that will set a two-season precedent: someone always dies during the musical. Do you guys think they’re going to kill someone off? And if so, who’s it going to be?
For the record: if it’s Toni, I’m going to be really fucking pissed.
Gabriella: I am so not looking forward to the Heathers episode. I would rather they do an episode about KEVIN AND THE FARM!!! Like, where has he been? Where is the farm???? Why do they just drop things in and out of each episode??? I wish they’d just stick to the vibe of this episode for the rest of the season and give us a satisfying character arch/plot development for the characters than try and shoe-horn more ‘theme’ing into the show. I would have said FP would be the one to die but now I’m not sure. Maybe Reggie? Or some unimportant high-schooler? WHEN DO THEY GO TO CLASS, GUYS.
But a side note - every time Luke Perry comes on screen I want to cry. He was such a stabilizing character for this show, and I’m anxious about what it’s going to be like without him.
Mary: I LOVE the Heathers musical, so I have high hopes for the next episode. There are so many good musical numbers in the show they could do—”Candy Store” for Cheryl? “Freeze Your Brain?” We also get to see Archie and Reggie as the two dumb jocks that they are, so it should be fun. I’m a sucker for silly musical episodes, so I hope it’s fun! I’ve already looked at the cast list for the school show (because I’m like that), and there are some no-name folks in it, as well as people we haven’t heard much from in a while, like Sweet Pea. Maybe one of them will be the one to die.
I’m sad about Luke Perry, too. I’m really curious what they’re going to do with Fred in the show. :(